bad calls

The 2014 NBA Playoffs are barely in full swing, and already the officiating (some would say orchestrating) is at center-stage, with the League admitting to errors on two game-clinching (if possibly not game-changing) fouls. Incoming Commissioner Adam Silver is touting a new transparency to NBA policy, but some are wondering if he may have gone too far, revealing how much room there is for error by and influence to referees in a sport whose appeal is closer to WWE than many would like to acknowledge. Regardless, and fortunately, there have also been plenty of surprises in the initial stages of the first round, which I’ll quickly examine:

Brooklyn Nets vs Toronto Raptors – blatant politics and positioning went into this match-up, as the veteran and media-favorite Nets backed off at the end of the regular season to avoid having to face the Chicago Bulls in the first round in their quest to get to a semi-finals showdown with the Miami Heat. Now the Nets have their hands full with the young and speedy Raptors and budding star DeMar DeRozan, barely winning Game 1 in Toronto and now returning home with the series knotted, and they’re looking much shakier than that.

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Chicago Bulls vs Washington Wizards – the other half of the Eastern draw has it even worse, as another young team, the Washington Wizards of John Wall and Bradley Beal, came into Chicago’s United Center and took the first two games, setting up a potential sweep back in the capital.

Indiana Pacers vs Atlanta Hawks – meanwhile, the first-seeded Pacers were shocked in their house by the eighth-seed Atlanta Hawks, who took Game 1 of their series. Indiana responded with a victory in Game 2, but still likely face three games down in Georgia, where their record has been dismal.

Memphis Grizzlies vs Oklahoma Thunder – heading out west, the Memphis Grizzlies, with a big contribution from little-known Slovenian journeyman Beno Udrih, fought hard enough to take Game 2 of their series at Kevin Durant’s Oklahoma Thunder, now giving themselves a chance to capitalize on home court advantage in the land of Sun and Stax.

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Houston Rockets vs Portland Trail Blazers – Due south from Oklahoma City, the Houston Rockets and their bearded one, James Harden, lost their home-court in overtime to the Portland Trail Blazers of LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard partly due to one of the decisions mentioned above. They face a must-have in Houston tonight.

Golden State Warriors vs Los Angeles Clippers – this was perhaps the most-hyped match-up of the first round, as it was well known that these elite-status-seeking teams are not the best of friends. Possibly as a response, the referees took over Game 1 at LA’s Staples Center, causing Kia-shiller Blake Griffin and the Warriors’ Chris Tucker-impersonator André Iguodala to foul out before making the other of the above-mentioned result-affecting errors. Much media complaining that the refs took the ‘drama’ out of the game ensued, leading to a Game 2 where it seemed they disappeared entirely, with Griffin repeatedly seeking ways to body-slam Warriors star Stephen Curry before the ‘Splash Brother’ was removed after the 3rd quarter in a game that had infinitely LESS drama. Hopefully the officials will get the balance right, in the classic words of Depeche Mode, in tomorrow’s Game 3 in what should be a hopping Oracle Arena in Oakland.

Of course, there is not much to say about the other two series so far, the San Antonio Spurs against some team and the Miami Heat against some other team that I think is owned by Michael Jordan. Oh yes, the Dallas Mavericks and the Charlotte Bobcats, respectively. Nothing here so far to counter the belief that after all the drama, we are going to see a repeat of last year in the 2014 finals.

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